Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
- John 5:19-23
My Dad passed away a little over eight years ago, on Cinco de Mayo. He’d almost be 99 years old if he were still around.
If he were still around, he’d be in hog heaven this week and next. He loved watching sports. He loved the underdogs and teams that never won the big one. He would have cheered the St. Louis Blues’ victory in the Stanley Cup Finals. He was very proud of the USA, but he might relent and cheer for the Raptors victory in the NBA Finals, since they’d never won before. He would probably watch the Women’s World Cup matches and the U. S. Open, but definitely the College World Series (baseball). And he would hide in the bedroom watching sports rather than participate in my mother’s favorite sport of holding court with her subjects in the living room and making them entertain her with intelligent conversation. My Dad didn’t talk much.
He might have had a lot to say about the US running up the score against Thailand in Women’s Soccer. There is always an aspect of the game, other than scoring that needs practice, in case another opponent is much better. I heard the talking heads say that the team should not change their style for a lesser opponent (and yes, I understand their thought process – just don’t agree with it), but there was something in my father that transcended the arrogant ball player attitude. Excuse me, they call it ‘confidence,’ not arrogance – a thin line there. What little he taught me about sports, I learned that you won with dignity and class, and you lost with dignity and class.
My Dad had been a ball player. He played freshman football at Mississippi State College, now a University. They were the Mississippi State Maroons at the time. He also played baseball, but he left college. He wanted to run a farm, but he also didn’t want to be tied down to a college education if the US entered what was later called World War II. He worked on the railroad, married my mother – probably the only girl he’d ever dated. (He sat behind her in high school since they sat in alphabetical order in those days. She asked him out on their first date.) My sister was born less than a month before Pearl Harbor. He enlisted and then tore his shoulder playing centerfield at Fort Polk, LA in a baseball game where the team was made up of major leaguers, for the most part. I think my Dad tried too hard to impress them.
My Dad’s bad shoulder did not keep him from preparing to go ashore on D-Day, but he was picked on 5 June, the day before the attack, to stay behind and arrive a day later. My Dad’s experience with the railroad was going to be used, using the French, Belgian, and German railroads to resupply the troops, once the tracks had been repaired. My brother had come into the world by then, after my Dad had joined the Army.
My Dad never understood why I loved to watch sports. He watched sports because he had made the sacrifices necessary to be good at the game. I had quit baseball (great outfielder with an instinct for where the ball was going, but horrible batting skills). I had quit football (one abusive coach after another who rarely taught you anything). I never was good at basketball. I ran track, but ‘that’s not a sport.’ After college, I started playing golf, but the same excuse as track might apply.
I loved fishing with my brother, but when he got married and moved away, I did not like fishing anymore. I really liked the family bonding time. With my Dad’s bad shoulder, he was limited in coaching me at various sports. If he had been there more, done more, took personal time more, maybe I would have tried to stick with it. There were very few years when my Dad was around at all, working at a poultry processing plant, far from home.
As a result, my Dad and I rarely talked, nothing in common. When he did talk, I listened.
My Dad could not understand why I was not being promoted in business. My bosses got promoted, largely on the backs of their employees, with me carrying the heaviest load – admitted by the boss. He could never accept that what he (my Dad) taught me was the cause, in some cases. “Work hard and it will pay off.” Most bosses over my entire career saw that I worked hard without a pay raise, so why give him one? Then they saw me work harder after a year with no pay raise, so … Then the next boss saw me as trouble, since I was not being given pay raises.
The words that my Dad said more than all other words combined were “The most important thing is to have Jesus in your heart.” He said that often. I wondered why. Did he not know that Jesus was my Savior? Did I not portray Christianity to him? Did he believe in the prosperity gospel and my lack of success proved that my heart was not right with God? No, I think that regardless of career choices, being born-again was the only thing that ultimately mattered, and that was my Dad’s eternal and everlasting message to me.
Whether you ever felt love from an earthly father or not, you have a heavenly Father that loves you.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.